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Don't blind me, bro! New 'non-lethal' police weapon isn’t easy on the eyes

Don't blind me, bro! New 'non-lethal' police weapon isn’t easy on the eyes
A company that makes tactical equipment for police to use in riots is manufacturing a new ‘non-lethal’ weapon designed to temporarily blind targets. The Z-RO non-lethal compliance weapon system will obstruct a person’s vision for 10 to 15 minutes.

The product from Shield Defense Systems (SDS) made waves on Reddit this week when it was revealed along with the note: “New weapon ‘Z-ro’ scrambles ocular fluid and temporarily blinds victim for 10-15min. Gotta be safer than a tazer [sic] right??”

The Reno, Nevada-based company promotes the Z-RO system as inflicting “absolutely NO lasting damage or harm to the target.” The non-lethal weapon is “geared toward temporarily subduing offensive targets, while preserving human life,” the SDS website said. It can be weapon-mounted or handheld, and “SAFELY obstructs the target's vision temporarily for up to 10-15 minutes via proprietary technology when deployed on engaged mark.”

There are no details on the SDS website about how the product works only that Z-RO “is 100% effective in forcing active non-lethal compliance over individual or multiple assailing biological targets, and will inflict Z-RO damage to their retina and cornea.”

Non-lethal weapons, such as flash-bangs, tasers and pepper spray, have caused permanent damage or killed their victims in the past. A toddler was severely burned and left unable to breathe during a May SWAT team raid in Georgia, when a flash-bang grenade landed in his crib. Elsewhere in Georgia, a man died in April after police used a stun gun up to 13 times on him while he was handcuffed. In February 2012, a California police officer was too close to a woman when he pepper-sprayed her, and the blast of the gel sliced her right eye in half, fractured her right orbital bone and severed the optic nerve in her left eye, permanently blinding her.

The SDS unveiling comes after a summer focused on the militarization of police in America rekindled in part by the law enforcement response to protests last month in Ferguson, Missouri. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study that concluded US police are becoming “excessively militarized” and “hyper aggressive” in their approach to maintaining security on the streets of America.

In August, the mainstream media began reporting on the subject after the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri and the city police department’s sometimes-violent reaction to protests stemming from Mike Brown’s death. Now police departments across the country are coming under intense scrutiny for military-grade equipment that they received through the Pentagon’s 1033 program.

Front Opening Tactical Assault Vest (Image by Shield Defense Systems)

Critics see the Z-RO as more of the same regarding the militarization of police. Paul Joseph Watson at Infowars.com wrote, “[D]espite coming under intense scrutiny over their treatment of protesters and journalists in Ferguson, militarized police departments are about to get their hands on a new toy that blinds people.”

“The image of the weapon on the company’s website isn’t likely to calm nerves given that the Z-RO is surrounded by what appear to be standard bullets,” Watson added. “There is no explanation of how the ‘retinal obfuscation’ gun actually works.”

Many of the comments on Reddit heavily criticized the product and the company. Some called SDS and the announcement a scam. User 1991_VG pointed out that there is no such company registered with the Nevada secretary of state. Glitch 29 wrote, “If you've got even the most modest knowledge of physics, you should know that there are very few (and most very weak) ways to alter something remotely. Magnetism certainly won't work. Something like ‘scrambling ocular fluid’ is wholly implausible with any method that doesn't involve physically invading the eyeball.”

Z-ro is also the name of a Houston, Texas rapper, who also goes by The Mo City Don. The musician was arrested in June after calling authorities to his home when he discovered a person hiding on the floor under one of his sheets, HipHop DX reported. The police who responded believed he was lying about the break-in and wanted to get rid of the woman so he could bring another woman to his house.

The rapper did not immediately respond to an RT request for comment on the weapon of the same name.

New music from THE MO CITY DON on the way... video clip for [the real is bacc]... coming soon... http://t.co/lcmy336bIi

— ♛THE MO CITY DON♛ (@ZROMOCITYDON) January 10, 2014

SDS touts itself as a tactical product and service company that is “knowledgeable, prepared and hold[s] a storied history in the field of security, intelligence, military and municipal public service.” Its current product line of defensive gear includes ballistic helmets and shields, tactical assault vests, gas masks and SWAT assault suits. The Z-RO appears to be the company’s first offensively-oriented device, which it describes as “advanced proactive… defense equipment.” The system will be available in December.